The Mine – Antti Tuomainen

themine

This is an unusual crime book, where the police involvement is almost non-existent, yet there is a definite sense of right and wrong, and an investigation that uncovers deeds most foul.

The main character is investigative reporter Janne Vuori, who is trying to find out what a mining company is getting up to in the north of Finland. Put onto the trail by an anonymous tip, Vuori soon discovers that the members of the company’s board are dying off in strange accidents. Are they, indeed accidents?

At the same time, Vuori’s relationship with his wife and child are more than strained by his inability to properly balance work and life, and he’s knocked even further off his stride by a surprise return. Past and present collide, and there are more casualties.

There are several paths narrated here, and they all come together in an unexpected fashion, delivering a fine piece of crime fiction that does more than its fair share of entertainment while, at the same time, shining a light on some aspects of Finnish society, politics, and business. I was hooked from early on, and the writing and the plot kept me enthralled. Some will find the pacing too slow, with the action too spaced out. I thought the suspense was being built up expertly, and was happy to soak it all up.

The main character is solid, flawed, and interesting. The other characters are not so complete, but neither are they cardboard cutouts. I enjoyed learning about Finland, and I was pleasantly surprised by the plot twists. There was a good mix of intrigue and mystery.

Well worth reading.

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Even Dogs in the Wild – Ian Rankin

evendogs

Now this is how to write a novel: interesting characters, plot, and pacing, intriguing strands of misdirection, authentic setting, and just enough action and violence to raise the threat level without reaching the gory heights of overkill. And that’s what you get in this book.

For me, reading Even Dogs in the Wild was like settling into old, well worn, and comfortable shoes: there was a sense of familiarity, and relaxation, enhanced by the warm glow of satisfaction. In the book, you might say that the two male leads – Rebus and Fox – are the slippers, because they are, indeed, familiar characters. This time around, Rebus – having retired – is on the outside, but asked back in to help with the case of a lawyer brutally murdered in his own home. From then on, the plot thickens, as the forces of law and order try to work out what is going on, why it’s going on, and who is behind the killing. At the same time, the forces of crime and corruption – Ger Cafferty and Darryl Christie – are dealing with their own investigation, as a Glasgow gang may be about to challenge the Edinburgh crew on their own turf.

The writing is economical, and well crafted. There is never a dull moment. The book delivers on all fronts. Highly recommended.

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Quote of the Week

From the Elder of Ziyon:

“Everyone who has tried to explain historic antisemitism and its more modern version of anti-Zionism has missed the issue. The real answer is that some people simply are consumed with hate that is so pervasive, and so delusional, that it overrides any other human attribute including self-preservation. It cannot be explained any more than schizophrenia can be explained. It may be chemical.”

Harsh? Not after you have read the shocking narrative here.

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Legion of the Damned – William C. Dietz

legiondamned

Another science fiction novel, this one with a decidedly military emphasis, floating an interesting central idea, but not much else. In a nutshell, condemned prisoners can opt after execution to be resuscitated as a brain to serve inside a gigantic military cyborg. They serve under the Foreign Legion, and boldly go wherever the hell they are told to go – mostly to dangerous places in order to die again.

There is plenty of action, blood, and thunder, with not much in the way of characterization, and some cliche ridden writing. The characterization, as far as it goes, has all the good guys very much the same, and all the bad guys similarly clone like. Unsurprisingly, there is not much that is believable about the science or the general story background. The plot pacing and timing simply did not work for me.

Worse, was that the author clearly didn’t believe in the show don’t tell maxim, and the almost endless stream of tell, tell, tell, did me in.

Clearly there’s a market for this stuff, as there are lots of books in the series, and there are lots of positive reviews out there. But not from me… Another one to avoid.

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Behind the Throne – K. B. Wagers

behindthethrone
This is a piece of science fiction space opera about Hailimi, a reluctant member of the Indranan Empire, happily leading the life of a gun runner. She is needed at home, and the Empire tracks her down and forces her back to take up the reins of responsibility.

This is fast action, thought free entertainment, that is frequently corny, and lacking any cohesive sense of logic. Just why is all this happening? There’s some potential there for a decent tale, but it is unfulfilled. Worse, the central character completely failed to engage me, and the story line performed the same way.

In brief: thoroughly disappointing, and a total waste of time. Avoid.

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Arrival

arrival

We wanted to see a movie. We checked out the titles against the ratings in IMDB. Arrival came out top by quite a distance. Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker, it’s a movie about the first contact with aliens. Twelve huge spaceships appear simultaneously in different sites around the world. Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Adams) is recruited to figure out how to communicate with the aliens. Everything is set up for an interesting piece of entertainment. Instead, I found it slow, drawn-out, and implausible. I won’t give any spoilers, but I will say that the central rationale for what is going on the movie did not work for me. In a word: disappointing.

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Among the Dead

Close combat in the bitter fighting at Galatas

Close combat in the bitter fighting at Galatas

My last ASL game of 2016 was scenario J165, Among the Dead, played against Ran. It’s about an action in the May 1941 invasion of Crete, with a force of elite German infantry trying to take a position defended by a mix of New Zealand and Greek troops. I took the Germans, and Ran took the Allies.

Ran’s setup was mainly to the west, with less of a presence on the east. I looked at the terrain on the east and thought it would be too difficult to make speedy progress. So, I brought all my soldiers in on the west. That was probably the right decision, but I was too hesitant in the opening couple of turns – I should have been bolder – and was running well behind schedule.

On the third game turn, the Allies received some infantry and tank reinforcements. I had, on call, two Stukas available as air support. But I had to specify in advance when they would arrive. I chose to wait till later turns, and Ran saw that as a mistake as the tanks are at their most vulnerable when moving on to the board. My aircraft duly arrived, and with Ran having hidden his tanks in cover, the Stukas bombed the hell out of some infantry. That went quite well.

In addition, my sole anti-tank rifle performed heroically, and knocked out both Allied tanks, brewing them up and starting a late flurry of burning terrain. Suddenly, things were not looking so bad, and there was even the prospect of victory.

However, I had badly handled my other support weapons – a couple of mortars and a medium machine gun – and that meant I had not exerted enough pressure on the defenders. They were able to pull together enough of a defensive line to deny me the chance of victory.

I was pleased that I had taken things to the last turn of the game, and – of course – could once again console myself with having learned some more lessons about how to play this amazing game.

 

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Job Interviews

bldng

One key part of the process of finding a new job, following on from me being made redundant by HPE, is going for interviews. I’m going to hold off from commenting on anything current, but there are a couple of historical interview stories worth relaying. Continue reading

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The lost art of Celtic spelling

As seen on a recent visit to Herzliya:

celltick

Obviously, it’s not actually a misspelling of Celtic, but it did stop me in my tracks and make me look. Celltick is another example of Israeli technology and know-how in the international world of telecommunications.

[I am tempted to do a drive by posting at some Scottish BDS site, like Celts for Palestine...]

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We’re going to build a railroad!

1846

I have always admired the 18XX games from afar, but when GMT announced they were producing one – designed by Tom Lehmann – , I knew it was a sign. I picked my copy of 1846 up from a USA dealer as part of a bulk order filling in some gaps in my Lord of the Rings LCG, and it duly arrived a couple of weeks ago. It’s taken this long for me to get it out of the wrapper, check the contents, and have a first look of the rulebook.

The physical components look to be fine, with a dandy mounted game board. The rules however left me with something of a sore head. It appeared to me that the rules assumed players were familiar with 18XX games, and a lot – or some – prior knowledge was expected. In fairness, after spending some more time on a closer read of the rules, I am reasonably satisfied all the information is there, just well hidden. And the example of play was a life saver.

Since the playing time is on the very wrong side of 3 hours, I doubt this will surface at my regular (euro) gaming session, but I am determined to assemble a crew of volunteers to try it out.

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